Charting the course of pop music through its number one hits

Stereogum columnist Tom Breihan discusses his book “The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music.”

Portrait of author Tom Breihan overlayed with the book cover for "The Number Ones: Twenty chart-topping hits that reveal the history of pop music."

Stereogum senior editor Tom Breihan is the author of "The Number Ones," available now through Hachette Books.

The history of pop music is still being written. Not just in the weekly Billboard updates on what’s at the top of the charts, but in the way we view past hits — and how exactly we got to this point.

Often, the songs that change the landscape of pop culture aren’t the ones that shatter sales records. Subtle changes to sound and the ability to not just capture the zeitgeist, but to affect the songs and styles that follow it are the true era-defining hits.

Such is the subject of the new book by Stereogum columnist Tom Breihan, “The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music.”

He spoke with WDET’s Russ McNamara about his book and the process for determining which No. 1 songs were most influential.

“It’s hard to think of too many moments, movements, collectives of people that are more important to pop history than Motown in the ’60s.” — Tom Breihan, author and columnist

Breihan’s column ‘The Number Ones’ is found at Stereogum. He also has two other wildly entertaining features: ‘The Popcorn Champs,’ which follows movies that were the biggest hit of that year, and ‘A History of Violence,’ a dive into the year’s top action movies.

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.